If you have not payed much attention to gaming news as of late, please allow me sometime (i.e. like a sentence) to get you caught up. Rust, a MMO survival game, recently patched their game to assign gender based on username and random chance. Many gamers are now enraged that they are being forced to play as a gender they are not. Many more are unchanged by this but the backlash has been pretty vocal about it all. But why is it vocal? Why are so many gamers upset about having to play as a gender that they are not? Well everyone looks at their characters a bit differently. When many play a game, whether it is a shooter, RPG, MMO or racing game, we want our characters to at least represent us. We want to be able to have them become avatars of our personality in the digital world. So therefore we expect them to be male or female, possibly cat for those cat gamers out there. That is unless you are like myself and you mainly play female characters but why do we do this? Why do you play only as one gender? Why not both? Or why not play the opposite of your real-life gender? Well it all has to do with psychology and just general perception/comfort.
When talking about comfort in playing another gender, most gamers have preconceived conceptions, the Female characters get all the attention, both positive and negative attention, while the male characters get a generally considered mild one. But why? Well to be frank, we are nice to female characters because we more often than not, genuinely believe a girl is playing that character. So we woo them over, we give them gold and hope that they might be able to appreciate us more. It is almost a courtship type of behavior when one thinks about it. Then there are the behaviors that are overtly sexualized and degrading to most, if not all, female characters that you encounter online. They are subject to berating comments and to advances that they generally do not want to receive at all. Thanks to Rust’s update, several male players have reported that they felt uncomfortable having many other players hover over them, doting on their every move and just generally being nasty. It has been enough for some players to retract remarks regarding their vocal opinions but many are still angry over having to play a certain gender.
This is causing the community to look back on how they play games and how they interact through their characters. It has also given players new look on how they also perceive their virtual gender. I for one can safely say that I have never had this issue. I actually enjoy playing the female characters more, based on the simple fact that they generally have better outfit choice (Not talking MMO Armor here), more options in character customization and they generally left me feeling normal while playing as my female characters. Others just don’t feel as comfortable. They wish to stick to what we would consider gender norms. Men should play as men and women should play as women. This sort of shut in philosophy does the community more harm than good, especially when you force others into playing a gender they aren’t or when you try to force those around you to experience diversity. While it is great that we are getting players to play female characters, you are creating a sort of forced friction. Some will react positively, some may have realizations while the rest may just spew forth more toxicity into the culture. Sure the developers of Rust could have prepared players for this in a future update however, I feel that the tide of initial rage is done with, as the developer has made it very clear that they are sticking to their guts. However this begs the question, if these players have played games where they know they have to play as a female, what are the sort of reactions then? What of games like Final Fantasy XIII where you predominately play as Lightning Farron? Do they play without complaint due to already knowing this? Do these gamers in question even play games with dominantly lead female characters? It is a question that I wish I could see addressed in large by the bigger news outlets such as IGN or Kotaku. Heck, I may even dive into the subject and conduct my own research on it. The fact remains though that as gamers we all come into gaming with biased tastes and preconceived notions of who we want to play as. It can be something that is just innate within us or something that has developed over time.
We are however curious as to what you all feel and think in regards to your gender and the gender you play in games. Do you play a man but you are a woman? Or do you play a woman but you are a man? Feel free to let us know your opinions on the matter and if you happen to have been playing Rust during this time of transition.
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